~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
I was talking with a friend here in Kauai who is doing some important research in what I call the “matrix”. He said, “The work I want to do now for society can best be described as de-programming.” It struck a chord in my own heart as I realized that on the Sufi Path we not only need to be de-conditioned from the negative influences of the false self (nafs), but we are also subject to a pervasive social programming through mass media and popular culture. The work we do on ourselves must also include an awareness of this social programming. There are behind the scenes powers that control and influence so many aspects of public life creating a vast, realistic, but distorted canvas.
Islamophobia is just one current aspect of it. Do not be disheartened, shamed, or cowed by what appears everyday in the public world. As Sufis we should not let our confidence be shaken or disturbed by the relentless bad news which typically ignores the context that gives rise to the crimes committed in the name of Islam by criminals who are Muslim in name only. The context must include illegal wars waged especially in the Middle East and Asia, the collapse of civil society ensuing from these wars, and the unending, cruel, and unjust oppression of innocent people.
Social engineering is an industry creating a false reality, steering us toward perpetual war, inflaming sectarian differences, destroying privacy, eliminating transparency in government and economics, and ultimately depleting every individual of their spiritual sovereignty.
We need to be deprogrammed; we need to clearly recognize how minds and hearts are being manipulated and resist this manipulation with every fiber of our being.
There are three things I want to make us more aware of:
- Do not let the unity of humankind be fractured by lies, fears, and hatred.
- Do not allow your moral being to be compromised by a culture without clear values and principles: the cheapening and misuse of sexual energy, the greed for more and different, and the loss of personal sovereignty to trivialities and distractions.
- Do not allow yourself to be enslaved by consumerism. Live better with less.
On the positive side, the truth is being revealed in countless ways. Voices for peace, health, and compassion are being heard. There are many reasons to be optimistic. We have a beautiful, living tradition supporting us, and so let us:
- Cultivate the heart through appreciation of our relationships.
- Never forget the spiritual nature of reality in pursuit of our ego’s agenda.
- Be fearless in expressing love, speaking the truth, and living generously.
Reflection on January’s theme: An Awakened Being is someone whose attention is guided by the Heart in everyday life.
~ Iman Mortagy (Colchester, England)
One of the things I love most about Islam is how alive it is. The teachings in the Quran and the example of our beloved Prophet Mohammed, as well as the life examples of all the Prophets, who came before him and of the awliya (Friends of God) and the arifs (the Knowers of God) who came after him, peace be upon them all, offer us relevant teachings for our everyday life.
Sheikh Fadhlallah Haeri once said, “If it’s not transformative, it’s not informative!” This sentence stayed with me and brings me to January’s theme which is in my opinion a brilliantly concise description of how I have come to view my purpose for being on the Sufi path. It is about awakening, about being aware of my attention, about finding my Heart and finally taking all that into my everyday life. What a task!
Before embarking on this spiritual journey my attention was very much guided by my rational mind, my ambitions, my career and my fears. I felt the need to prove and protect myself. With hindsight, it now feels like I was running fast back then, but not sure where I was heading. I have had to press the brakes quite hard which has been a shock to my system and in many ways disorientating. Now, on the Path, a new phase of my journey is about befriending my Heart which, like all meaningful friendships, requires getting to know one another. Any solid relationship requires commitment, a sense of dedication, and most importantly, the cultivation of trust. But what is this Heart, which I am so drawn to and which I am trying to befriend?
It is probably easier for me to describe how I feel when the connection is there, rather than trying to find a definition for the Heart. The feeling is a deep sense of security and peace and at the same time a joyous expansive sense of flow. When I am connected to my Heart, I have a clearer sense of my intuition and I am more aware of my words and actions. This connection offers a different perspective on personal and collective difficulties in life, making them easier to bare. When I find myself weighed down by worries, fears or desires, I realise the connection to the Heart is obscured and the feeling is always one of heaviness.
Being connected to my heart has literally opened up a new dimension of being in this world; very special people, experiences and teachers seem to appear and signs become more readable. The stronger this friendship with my Heart becomes, the more I yearn for it to grow; the more I care to nurture it, the more I miss it when I find myself forgetful or heedless.
Awakening is a process with its own challenges and beauties – it is a gift from the Divine. I pray that we are all enabled to make ourselves available to receiving it. In this context I remember this beautiful verse from the Quran 6:122:
Is then he who was dead